2011 World Heart Day is on Sunday 29 September. To celebrate, Jean Hailes for Women's Health is offering some practical advice to women (and men!) who want to reduce their risk of heart disease, the number one killer of men and women in Australia.
Under 40 – focus on prevention
If you have a family history of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or depression, it is even more important that you speak to your doctor about how you can change your lifestyle to improve your heart health.
Enjoy healthy eating. Choose low or no fat dairy foods, trim fat from meat and chicken, swap butter for margarine, make vegetables the main part of your meal and be sure to eat five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit every day. Enjoy fish and pulses twice a week and choose mainly water to drink.
Talk to your doctor or dietitian about ways to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
A brisk walk for 30 minutes a day or more can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as half. And it doesn't have to be 30 minutes all at once, three lots of 10 minutes is just as good.
Quit smoking. For assistance, call the Quitline on 131 848 or talk to your doctor.
Small changes can make a big difference. Choose one area of your life and set small, achievable goals.
If you have high blood pressure and are on the contraceptive pill, you are at higher risk of stroke, so see your GP regularly.
40-55 years – focus on lifestyle modification
A full GP check-up at 45 years is recommended to assess heart disease risk.
Depression, anxiety and unrealistic goals caninterfere with making lifestyle changes. Ask your health professional for support.
If you are over 50, have your cholesterol checked every two years. Risk of heart disease increases after menopause.
High blood pressure and diabetes become more common after 40, so ask your GP to check your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
A heart risk calculator can assess your risk of heart disease by looking at risk factors such as age, lifestyle, blood pressure and cholesterol.
55+ years – stay in touch with your GP
This is typically when women start to think more about their health and advancing age – it's an important time to be monitored by your GP.
Have your cholesterol checked every two years, along with blood pressure and other risk factors.
A heart risk calculator may be useful. Note: Some tools will not calculate heart disease risk for women over 74 years.
Published with the permission of the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women's Health
Tollfree number 1800 151 441 for women seeking further health information www.JeanHailes.org.au